It's not news that Bush-Cheney '04 has gone negative -- journalists and other observers have long noted that the Republicans have waged the most negative presidential campaign in recent memory. Nor is it news that the GOP has stretched the truth about John Kerry. The truth was a rare commodity at the Republican convention in New York. And Bush and Cheney routinely distort Kerry's record and statements on defense votes, the $87 billion, the "global test," and on and on.
So it must be getting really bad for the New York Times to note today that in his most recent, stepped up attacks on Kerry -- more scathing as his poll numbers sag and Iraq news gets worse -- Bush "pushes the limits on the facts."
But the Times' Adam Nagourney and Richard Stevenson are careful not to say outright that Bush has taken to "lying." They have a more polite phrase for it. Mr. Bush has "pushed the limits of subjective interpretation," according to "several analysts" -- "and offered exaggerated or what some Democrats said were distorted accounts of Mr. Kerry's positions on health care, tax cuts, the Iraq war and foreign policy."
These analysts, Nagourney and Stevenson tell us, "include some Republicans" who admit Bush "was repeatedly taking phrases and sentences out of context, or cherry-picking votes, to provide an unfavorable case against Mr. Kerry."
The piece quotes GOP strategist Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign for president as saying: "They are going right up to the line and they are pushing it hard.'' Although when the Times asked Reed "whether he agreed with Mr. Bush's characterization of Mr. Kerry's view on pre-emptive war, Mr. Reed responded, 'No.'"
But Reed "said that Mr. Bush had not yet gone too far and praised the high-spirited attacks on Mr. Kerry as a tactical move saying they would energize Republican base voters who had been dispirited by Mr. Bush's performance last week." It's a bad sign for Bush if he has to exaggerate, distort and "push the limits of subjective interpretation" to energize his base.